Hippocampal long-term potentiation that is elicited by perforant path stimulation or that occurs in conjunction with spatial learning is tightly controlled by beta-adrenoreceptors and the locus coeruleus.

Research paper by Niels N Hansen, Denise D Manahan-Vaughan

Indexed on: 03 Mar '15Published on: 03 Mar '15Published in: Hippocampus


The noradrenergic system, driven by locus coeruleus (LC) activation, plays a key role in the regulating and directing of changes in hippocampal synaptic efficacy. The LC releases noradrenaline in response to novel experience and LC activation leads to an enhancement of hippocampus-based learning, and facilitates synaptic plasticity in the form of long-term depression (LTD) and long-term potentiation (LTP) that occur in association with spatial learning. The predominant receptor for mediating these effects is the β-adrenoreceptor. Interestingly, the dependency of synaptic plasticity on this receptor is different in the hippocampal subfields whereby in the CA1 in vivo, LTP, but not LTD requires β-adrenoreceptor activation, whereas in the mossy fiber synapse LTP and LTD do not depend on this receptor. By contrast, synaptic plasticity that is facilitated by spatial learning is highly dependent on β-adrenoreceptor activation in both hippocampal subfields. Here, we explored whether LTP induced by perforant-path (pp) stimulation in vivo or that is facilitated by spatial learning depends on β-adrenoreceptors. We found that under both LTP conditions, antagonising the receptors disabled the persistence of LTP. β-adrenoreceptor-antagonism also prevented spatial learning. Strikingly, activation of the LC before high-frequency stimulation (HFS) of the pp prevented short-term potentiation but not LTP, and LC stimulation after pp-HFS-induced depotentiation of LTP. This depotentiation was prevented by β-adrenoreceptor-antagonism. These data suggest that β-adrenoreceptor-activation, resulting from noradrenaline release from the LC during enhanced arousal and learning, comprises a mechanism whereby the duration and degree of LTP is regulated and fine tuned. This may serve to optimize the creation of a spatial memory engram by means of LTP and LTD. This process can be expected to support the special role of the dentate gyrus as a crucial subregional locus for detecting and processing novelty within the hippocampus.